In 2008, a right-leaning nonprofit, Citizens United, was derailed by a campaign-finance law when it attempted to promote an anti-Hillary Clinton film during the run-up to that year’s Democratic primary. The group ultimately—and successfully—appealed its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court’s 2010 decision had sweeping implications: it invalidated many of the prohibitions that had been in place with respect to political spending, thereby allowing corporations and nonprofits, (including labor unions), wider latitude in their political participation. Some scholars and pundits lauded the decision, claiming a great victory for free speech, which now would be less hindered by certain Progressive-era restrictions. However, aided by critics of the decision, a popular and pervasive narrative has emerged in the national conversation. Pundits and politicians, including President Obama claimed that elections would now be "bought" by wealthy donors, shadowy nonprofits, and other moneyed interests. This theme has been echoed in the media, by university faculty, and by special-interest groups across the country.
These dire predictions have proved wrong; but Citizens United did unleash a new threat to American Democracy. On Tuesday, September 20th the Young Leaders Circle will welcome Wall Street Journal editorial board member and “Potomac Watch” columnist Kimberley Strassel to discuss her new book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech. In the Intimidation Game, Strassel convincingly chronicles how politicians and bureaucrats increasingly—and often, illegally—seek to discourage free speech and free association to silence their opponents. If Americans of all political stripes fail to vigorously defend these cherished rights, argues Strassel, they will surely wilt away.